Death of the Dead (2010)
Directed by Gary King
Written by Bo Buckley
I never think a director or writer ever reads my reviews. The Jaded Viewer is a small corner of the interweb and I mean you'd think they'd be to busy to bother to read what a NYC horror blogger has to say about their film.
But when I reviewed Gary King's Dismal: Eat or be Eaten, I kinda made a few zingers at the movie's expense. Shockingly, I got an e-mail from writer and producer Bo Buckley and he appreciated that I reviewed the film even though it wasn't overly positive.
Added to this, I actually didn't know about director Gary King's other work too. His filmography reads like an art house menu of NYC based films. So when Mr. Buckley informed me that he had teamed up with Gary King again, and this time it was a kung fu zombie comedy, I didn't know what to think. The trailer looked pretty hilarious though but would this end up dismal like Dismal?
I'm glad to say it didn't.
Death of the Dead is a campy horror kung fu comedy, comparable to seeing a YouTube video of a dude getting kicked in the groin. Think Karate Kid meets Troma and throw in a little bit of Scary Movie and some Zucker Brothers. Mix in a blender and you got Death of the Dead.
I'll admit I LOL-ed throughout most of the movie as the gags, inside jokes, 4th wall breaking jokes had me on the floor. Sure it's an indie production but it doesn't look like it. The dialogue winked at the audience a few times, the CGI (which didn't work in Dismal) seemed right at home in this comedy and the acting by our lead Christina Rose who plays Wanda is spot on brilliant.
Sure some jokes fell flat and a few scenes were mostly filler but it's not like your watching Inception here. It's definitely a film that cliches itself to death (all intentional) and includes a scene with ball busting numchucks.
I mean what more can you ask for?
It's Karate Kid meets 28 Days Later in this over-the-top horror / action / comedy from Strange Stuff Productions. Wanda is an uber nerd with the coordination of a seizure victim. Her karate trainer is an aging pervert with a penchant for ball gags and various sex toys. When a bus from a rival karate school accidentally runs over a couple scientists dumping a toxic chemical down the sewer, the entire class is turned into high flying, flesh eating baddies!
As they wreak havoc on the town turning others into zombie ninjas, Wanda and her instructor must save the planet with the help of a magic karate belt. That's right, I said MAGIC KARATE BELT. An epic feature full of brains, boobs and bad ass bitches, Death of the Dead is fun for the whole family!
There have been a ton of horror parodies of late. Zombieland and Scary Movie come to mind. But in the indie world, these comedies are not often seen but they rival the best Hollywood has to offer.
Death of the Dead is chock full of sight gags, toilet humor and self aware jokes that it had me laughing at all this kung fu foolery. It's also smart enough to not be those movies where you parody the latest popular movie (sorry Twilight fans). What it does is take 2 genres, the karate action movie and the zombie movie and mixes in the cliches from both to make a comedy that cleverly mocks the mockery.
I'm not usually good at reviewing comedies so I'm turning this review into a jaded viewer cliche review with the old standby Q&A review! This is where I answer the questions I make up that I think you'd ask.
1.) Wanda is Daniel-son type uber nerd but she transforms into a kick ass, karate zombie killer. OK I can buy that, but she gets naked right?
Alas no nudity by our zombie killing vixen but in the first 3 minutes we get boobs and thats a plus in my book. The opening scene has stereotypical cheerleaders doing stereotypical cheerleading things like being bitchy, cat fighting and being lesbian.
2.) So the relationship between Wanda and her sensei is strictly platonic right? Does that mean I get to see boobs?
Jeez, what's your obsession with boobs dude? Wanda and Master Sensei develop a bizarro world Daniel-Miyagi relationship. The first half of the movie is a total Karate Kid parody complete with Wanda being made fun of and a final karate tournament match. DOTD skewers 80s montages, the old Cobra-Kai cliche and the evil sensei.
And then there's a cat fight in a kiddie pool filled with mud....or it could have been poo. My money is on poo.
3.) I'm not that literate when it comes to theoretical quantum physics. What do you mean by 4th wall?
The most hilarious moments are when the movie breaks the 4th wall. From visible boom operators to a very noticable stunt double, I can't help but laugh when this happens. It's a brilliant gag that hasn't been used very much. Think Wayans I'm Gonna Git you Sucka and Menace. Last time I saw this was in Black Dynamite.
DOTD somehow places these gags in just the right places and at the right time. Like if I told you right now I was writing this while eating a McRib. See what I mean?
4.) WTF man! Kung Fu Zombies?
So some toxic goo turns the evil Cobra-Kai team into zombies and they take over Cleveland, OH. I know what your thinking. Kung fu zombies is a brilliant adversary for our uber nerd turned slice happy Wanda. As the town is overrun, Master Sensei and his box of sex toys try to save the day.
5.) I heard that ILM did the special effects for this. Is that true?
I joked that the CGI in Dismal was bad at one point wrote "The CGI fire and explosion look so fake, it's like they put a lighter in front of the camera." The same effects return here. But somehow when you see a zombie split in half and it looks cheesy, you laugh and you know its part of the joke.
6.) Ummmm so this is a smart kung fu zombie horror comedy? Are you on drugs?
[Inhales via bong while simultaneously doing crystal meth]
What? Nope not on drugs. The thing about DOTD is its kinda smart with its in jokes. Bo Buckley inserts a few ha ha's while ridiculing the cliche of exposition and plot explaining. The characters are stereotypical but somehow feel unique and different with some anti-cliche personalities.
I don't know. I kinda dug Wanda's nerdo to hottie transformation as well as her gothy sidekick in tow. I even laughed at Master Sensei's stupidity.
7.) It can't all be good. Something must have sucked. What was the suckage?
Well there were a few jokes that didn't work. There is so many dick and fart jokes I can take. You'd think gross out humor and over the top props and sexual innuendo would be fun, but some jokes are done over and over again. The fight scenes were completely laughable but I didn't care because Wanda was slicing and dicing in a Wonder Woman outfit bought from an S&M store. Yum.
8.) So what's the deal here? Am I going to like this? Is their subtle satire in this comedy that will make me reevaluate the world?
Umm no. It's a fun little indie horror comedy that is a total time waster. I would say Death of the Dead is right up there with the best Troma movies (maybe even a bit better). Gary King makes the movie completely coherent and has good set up then punchline scenes. The writing has got lots of smarty jokes, the acting is top notch led by Christina Rose as Wanda.
Death of the Dead smartly recognizes what the audience knows, what it's making fun of and what the audience wants. There hasn't been a horror comedy about kung fu zombies that I know of. Let Death of the Dead be your first.
Wanda gets revenge on the "Sweep the leg Johnny!" character
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
I believe Death of the Dead is playing a few film fests before it gets released on DVD. Check out the official site for more info.
Check out the trailer below.